I want to highlight part of a comment Alex made at a recent post:
Strangely, I’m strongly in favor of the burqa ban, which you referred to as foulness. My philosophical reasoning here is strongly affected by my emotions and the way I was brought up. I was brought up as a strongly conservative Christian, and sent to Christian schools my entire life, including boarding school in high school, and the dress codes were very strict. I look back on my entire childhood as abuse and torture, that affected me absolutely as much as the beatings. Given that most “women” are expected to start wearing these costumes at puberty, when they are not in control of any part of their lives, is giving too much control to parents. I know this raises issues of what an adult woman can choose for herself, but the adult women I know in any kind of conservative religion are mad and usually poor or no education which would enable them to have the economic freedom to choose, and they are kept from making real outside social connections which might offer them the support to make real choices.
As he himself acknowledges, this is a fine example of paternalism in action, where you’re so convinced these women wearing burqas need to be delivered from their oppression that you’re willing to send them to jail for it. This sort of attitude has a not very proud history on the left (*cough*eugenics*cough* and we should be very careful with it. For a start, just because your reason for wanting to ban the burqa is all meant in the best interests of its wearers, it doesn’t mean that the people actively trying to do this are motivated by anything more noble than a spot of Muslim bullying. Modern bigotry often hides behind a phony concern for “western” values and liberties.
Furthermore and quite obviously, a burqa ban denies agency to the very women who we are supposedly trying to liberate from their oppression, by making it clear that they cannot be trusted to make the right choice on their own. A burqa ban also supposed that the view of the burqa as a symbol of male oppression of women is the only correct one and that women cannot choose to wear it for any reason other than that somebody is forcing them. It therefore denies the existence of any woman who has made that choice for religious or other reasons. Finally, it also supposes that “we” know what’s best for “them”, when it may very well be that the burqa is just a minor issue or no issue at all in the lives of most Muslim women living in the Netherlands.
A burqa ban also means that those women who wear them for religious reasons are forced to choose between the law and their religion, never a happy occurrence, while those who are forced into it through social pressure or their evil husbands will have other tensions to worry about…
Let’s not forget also that the number of women who wear the full burqa, rather than just a headscarf, is very low: probably less than twohundred in the entire country. Not really a “problem” we need a law for, in other words.